U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that the soon-to-pass, bipartisan spending package for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 includes $1.486 billion in federal funding for the Department of Education Impact Aid Program. The $1.486 billion funding level for FY2020 is a $40 million increase over FY2019’s funding level. The senators explained that the Impact Aid program provides flexible support for school districts impacted by the presence of federally-owned lands, such as military bases and Native American lands, and that the program is essential to communities across Western New York, the North Country, and the Hudson Valley. Gillibrand leads the push in the Senate every year to secure funding for the Impact Aid program, and this year she built a bipartisan coalition of 41 senators in support of robust funding for the program.
This year, Schumer launched a major push in March to reverse the administration’s proposed cuts to the Department of Education (ED) Impact Aid Program, which provides millions of dollars in critical aid funding to school districts throughout New York on federal land, including Highland Falls, near Fort Drum, Silver Creek, and Salamanca. Standing at a Highland Falls Kindergarten classroom, Schumer said that the heartless slashing of the Impact Aid budget would be catastrophic to the Highland Falls School District because approximately 93% of the land within the district is exempt from property taxation due to the fact that it is federal- and state-owned land. As a result, Highland Falls has a very small tax base, roughly 7%, to fund its schools. The Impact Aid program helps local school districts make up for a funding shortfall caused by having such a large percentage of land exempt from taxation.
“A quality education is the foundation on which our children can build successful and fulfilling lives, and it’s no secret that school districts in Highland Falls, near Fort Drum and Silver Creek and Salamanca at the Seneca Nation routinely give students a quality education thanks in part to the millions of dollars provided by the federal Impact Aid program,” said Senator Schumer. “The administration’s thoughtless gutting of this crucial lifeline would have been a tragic mistake for many school districts throughout the country, especially in Upstate New York, with millions on the line. The cut would drastically hinder the quality of learning for students, increase pressure for teachers who already work tirelessly, and devastate the school district as a whole. I was proud to fight to not just preserve, but increase funding for Impact Aid in the budget. This federal investment takes undue burden off the backs of local taxpayers and puts resources right where they belong—in the impacted classrooms across the state.”
“With Impact Aid, students who come from military families or live on Native American lands can gain equal access to the same educational opportunities as other children. The quality of their education should not be compromised due to federal activity, and this funding will help support school districts near West Point, Fort Drum, and Native American lands in Western New York,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to lead the fight in the Senate every year for this funding, and I am very pleased that this year’s spending bill increases the budget for this essential program by $40 million. I will continue to work to provide our schools with the resources they need to succeed.”
Since its creation in 1950, the Impact Aid program has provided assistance to local school districts with concentrations of children residing on military bases or other federal properties, such as West Point, on Indian lands, low-rent housing properties, and concentrations of children who have parents in the uniformed services or employed on eligible federal properties who do not live on federal property. The Impact Aid Program is designed to directly compensate local school districts for local revenue lost due to the presence of federally owned, and therefore tax-exempt property, as well as costs incurred due to “federally connected” students, such as the children of armed services personnel working at a nearby military base. These school districts face special challenges—they must provide a quality education to the children living on federal lands while often operating with less local revenue than is available to other school districts because their federal property is exempt from local property taxes or the presence of larger numbers of federally connected students.
Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought to boost funding for the Impact Aid Program, specifically in Highland Falls. In 2014, Schumer fought to secure a provision that locked a new funding calculation for the Impact Aid Program to increase aid for Highland Falls, as well as a three-year extension for the essential program. In September of last year, Schumer and Gillibrand announced, following their push, they had successfully fought to secure a $32 million boost for the Impact Aid program in Fiscal Year 2019, bringing its total funding to $1.446 billion.